Dennis Black, one of the University at Buffalo’s most influential figures over the past four decades, admitted he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the university before a State Supreme court judge on Thursday.
Black, who is the former vice president of university life and services pleaded guilty to stealing $320,000 from the university.
Black resigned suddenly in July 2016 after 38 years at the university and investigators with the State Inspector General and Erie County District Attorney’s Office began probing questionable spending from the Faculty-Student Association. The association, which was under Black’s jurisdiction, runs campus dining and shops at UB.
According to D.A. Flynn, Black used the money for personal trips with his wife to places like Salt Lake City, Florida, and Chicago. He also bought tickets to Broadway Shows, Yankees games, and concerts. Flynn said Black also made charitable contributions to both the BPO and the United Way, and claimed them on his income tax return.
Black isn’t the only UB employee who pleaded guilty to siphoning funds from the university. Andrea Constantino, who served as the Director of Campus Life, also pleaded guilty to lesser charges of theft.
Black, whose base salary at UB approached $300,000, is accused of taking the money for personal use and also making charitable donations in his name. A source said he then wrote those donations off on his taxes.
Black could face between 5 to 15 years in prison, but may receive a reduced sentence if he makes restitution for the theft. He would also keep his state pension despite any conviction.
University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi released a statement regarding the situation:
"Today, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office held a press conference announcing that a former UB employee has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of grand larceny and another former UB employee has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of grand larceny and an additional felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing.
This matter stems from a university audit conducted by UB’s Office of Internal Audit in April 2016. This audit was conducted at my direction due to concerns of financial mismanagement in the former University Life and Services organization.
The UB audit uncovered a pattern of financial abuse, including the misappropriation of state funds in the former University Life and Services organization and the Faculty-Student Association. (The Faculty-Student Association is a separate, private, not-for-profit corporation affiliated with UB.)
In July 2016, I, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel for SUNY, directed UB’s Office of Internal Audit to refer this matter to the New York State Office of the Inspector General. Concurrently, this matter was referred to the SUNY Fraud Committee.
In July 2016, the Office of the Inspector General assumed responsibility for this investigation. Throughout the investigation, UB cooperated fully with the Office of the Inspector General, and UB will cooperate fully with the Office of the District Attorney.
As soon as we uncovered the financial abuse, the University at Buffalo took swift and appropriate measures to tighten financial controls, including assigning authority for all financial decisions and transactions to the Vice President for Finance and Administration."
Constantino is scheduled to be sentenced on December 6th. She faces up to four year in prison and was also ordered to pay more than $14,000 in restitution.
Black's scheduled to be sentenced January 10. He faces up to 15 years in prison and has to pay $320,000 in restitution and more than $22,000 in taxes to the N.Y.S. Department of Tax and Finance.